St Arnaud(1208.6)-John Tait Hut(1223.3)
Campsite Elevation: 2707ft/825m
As forecasted, the rain dumped down last night. It was amazing to have timed it to be in town for that. It’s tough to know for sure because I feel so isolated from news and such here, but it was apparently really major and caused flooding in some areas. As the morning went on, the rain was forecasted to lighten up, and it did with moments of blue sky and sunshine trying to find its way through. I knew conditions wouldn’t be ideal, but timing seemed right to head out and gut through the flooded trail in light rain. Dealing with swollen streams and flooded trail is just part of hiking in New Zealand. It is said that the water levels lower just as quickly as they rise. I would have liked to wait another day to let the water drain out a bit, but the next bout of rain (possibly heavy) comes through in ~3 days. There are two passes and a river crossing I’d like to get through before that next system comes through to avoid having to wait out weather in a hut for possibly a day or two. Again, there’s a window, and if all goes as expected, I am hoping it will work out just right to make it through this leg without incident.
I stayed at the lodge until checkout at 10am. I liked it there at the Travers-Sabine Lodge, and recommend it. Even at full capacity, it was spread out enough to be quiet and spacious. I went by the DOC center on the way out of town to make sure there weren’t any updates I had missed. They just gave the usual warnings about flooded and possibly washed out trail. They also mentioned that many major roads had been closed due to flooding, so it really must have been bad. Apparently winds were super high as well. It makes total sense why they have the hut system out here with how often strong weather moves through.
I got started about 10:45am, and immediately noticed the high water level of Lake Rotoiti, the lake I’d be following the first 2-3 hours of the day. The water was about level to the dock. I’ve seen photos of the docks along Lake Rotoiti before, and the water is usually much lower.
I can’t overstate how flooded the trail was today. It should have been a straightforward cruise today, but I quickly found that would not be the case. The nice wide trail soon became a stream. I feel like I walked in water for 50% of the day today.The day was a bit of a blur with the combo of all the water and a light rain on and off. It was a few hours of hiking in the woods with mostly flooded trail to Lakehead Hut. There were some side streams that needed to be crossed, but nothing very swift or frightening thankfully. There were some times when it took a bit to find the trail on the other side. There may have been trail hidden under the water or maybe cairns got washed away. I found it to be stressful as it definitely triggered my PTSD of flooded trail and raging water crossings from the record high snow and snow melt of PCT 2011. Later, when I reached the hut, most seemed to have had fun with it, but I think I was too anxious about crossings to relax today. Also, my feet were pretty numb most of the day with the cold water. I just wanted to get through it and stay warm, so I just snacked and didn’t stop for a full lunch or break. When I reached Lakehead Hut, there were a few TA hikers I haven’t met before that were taking a break before moving on. I kept walking and the terrain changed from a flooded wooded trail to a flooded grassy valley. The water was everywhere and quite wide in places. Fortunately, none of it was too swift. It was slow going all day not being able to see through the water much of the time and not sure of how deep it would be. Some of it was crotch deep but footing underneath in the grass was fine and I felt stable. One section was completely flooded out and too swift and deep to go into. This is what the trail dead ended into. There is a grassy patch on the left center that has an orange marker indicating the trail is there. Um, no way… Fortunately, there was a way around it to a more shallow and manageable crossing. I knew there was a decent sized group that had left the lodge a couple hours ahead of me this morning, so I figured that unless I saw them turned around, everything was passable. It was good to know I had so many others ahead of me, and that although I was doing it on my own, I wasn’t the only one doing it.
I was glad the rain today was light and on and off. The clouds were high and I was able to see the mountains. This is one of the most scenic parts of the TA, so I’m glad I’m actually getting to see it. It was quite impressive how much water was running off the tops of the mountains.I was really relieved when the trail returned to the woods and came out of the flooded valley. The trail still had water in it, but it wasn’t the big wide deep stuff that was in the valley. I made it to John Tait Hut at 5pm. The view was great! The plan was to go one more hut a couple more hours away, but I decided I’d done enough. The TA hiker group that left ahead of me was also there, and most decided to stay as well. It seems that we are all on the same plan and have a good window to do this without having to unnecessarily push today and tomorrow. We can do one major pass a day over the next two days and should be over them before the next major rain comes.
The main worry I have is that after the second pass is a major river crossing. I want to time it to let that thing drain as much as possible before crossing it, but before the next rain comes. It seems that timing will be good for that, but I’m conserving food in preparation to sit it out a couple days if need be to let it drain.
This hut is awesome! The fire was going when I got there and it was super warm and cozy inside. It sleeps 27 and we have 12 people here tonight. Ten TA hikers and two locals. A couple of the hikers I met back in Taumarunui or early in the hike, but the rest are new to me. It’s a lot of people, but they are all a quiet and calm group, so I like the energy. The last couple hours of the night, everyone was quietly reading in their own space.
Tomorrow looks to be a great day for one of the most scenic parts of the whole trail. I’m looking forward to it, and with the distances between the huts, it should be a relaxed day to really enjoy it.
Yikes! You don’t need hiking shoes, you need fishermen’s waders!
I’ve just finished your Sierra posts from 2011 a few days back. I know how scary those crossings were for you! Glad it wasn’t so bad here, but still a very soggy experience!
Yes, many flashbacks to that recently.
Sleeps 27, that’s incredible and understandable. I’d say you’ve arrived and adjusted. Way outside my comfort zone also.
And you left Portland rain for this? LOL it’s been a very rainy and snowy winter in far NorCal. It looks like it’s gonna be a 2011 repeat in the Sierra for the PCT hikers.
Its actually looking much worse. We’re on pace for the wettest snowiest winter in California since they began recording in 1921. For instance there are rain gages already over 80 invhes and Mammoth has received nearly 30 feet of snow so far in January. Tahoe’s a complete mess. We’ll see what the next 3 1/2 monthes bring, but I don’t plan on hitting the Sierra until August this year…late August.
Yeah, Becky and Tom are both eyeing a PCT 2018 hike and I warned them it will be a huge year because of all those postponing this year.
I know, so much rain everywhere this year it seems.
The Te Araroa is continuing to throw up some new and interesting challenges, Erin .. I expect you are liking it a lot, at least I hope you are! Who needs comfort zones 🙂
Shame about the NZ trolls, but at least the folks on the ground seem really hospitable. And those huts!
Enjoy lake constance and waio pass!
I remember well your PCT 2011 trail blog and the water crossings. You´ve grown so much as a hiker since then as now you´re walking little waterfalls!
Beautiful, but definitely not something I’d want to do. Way too much water for me. Next time I’m out hiking and start having bad thoughts or whining about a little rain, I’ll try to remember what you’re doing right now.
Wow that was an amazingly different hike to Liz and mine a couple of years back. We actually camped on the big fields up from Lakehead hut near the river! And you had a river/lake instead! The track around the lake is usually an easy stroll- recommended for families with kids- was amazing to see it so transformed! Great to see you made it through.
Great post and photos. That is quite the wet wonderland for sure. I hope your feet are OK after being submerged for so long.
That first photo, reminds me of your CDT hike.
How do your feet hold up with being soaking wet what appears most of the day? I like my hiking with nice dry shoes. Do you do anything special for days like this – or just deal with wet socks and shoes?
Thanks for you bog. I really have enjoyed following you.
Yeah, we just all deal with it. Even the boots did nothing against this. They were blocks of ice and have been sensitive to getting cold easily ever since all that PCT stuff back in 2011. Problem this time is that you will find out in a future post that they were so cold that I didn’t notice I had my shoe too tight and have caused a possible injury to the top of my foot…Somehow they were fine with not blistering this leg. I think the huts help a ton to totally dry out in a warm place at the end of the day.
Another zero day here in soggy SoCal.. I must drive a patient tomorrow.
I like the idea of thinking of your recent extremely wet hiking before I become whiney.. I have few problems (except for dodging trucks and big SUVs in my little Prius).
The last huts you stayed in look to be comfy and it was great that the hikers there were like minded.. good places to dry out and plan for the next day.
side streams and creeks tend to go up and down fast acording to how much its raining, but longer rivers can stay up for hours or days after the rain has stopped.
the rakaia and the rangitata rivers further south especially, they catch more rain from the middle of the alps that doesnt make it far over onto the eastern side of the alps and it takes a while for the water to dissipate after the rain, the catchments are a lot larger, and theres going to be a bit of snowmelt adding to that.
The waterfalls! The trails turned streams! Looks like a movie set…without a director who can yell, “Cut!” Glad you’re taking it all in stride.
Holy moly!! Your poor feet!
I have actually just recently finished reading the Sierra section of your PCT blog, so those water crossings are fresh in my memory too. Trying to prepare myself for my thru-hike this summer, as so far it’s looking like another snowy year in the Sierras!!
Yeah, some sealskinz socks or something like that might help. My feet haven’t been the same since 2011. They get numb quick.